A Role of Irony

Carolyn Bright

A quick update on my latest job as a Mom and why it’s one of opposites

One of the primary definitions of irony, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.” If I could summarize motherhood lately, it would mirror that definition. It is a role full of expectation and lots of incongruity. Contradiction is a primary theme.

The irony seems to lie in both the practical and the deep emotions I experience daily. As I returned to work three months ago, I found myself missing my child, craving her giggles and our long days together. She and I were no longer two peas is a pod, spending our days coexisting with aligning schedules and priorities. Lainey attends daycare eight hours a day, five days a week. She has lovely teachers who care for her, feed her, change her diapers, and wipe away her tears. I now spend my days juggling being full-time working mom. Side note on this: I dislike the use of “full-time working mom”. Isn’t motherhood a full-time job? Even the way we talk about being a mother is full of irony.

In the midst of this transition, I’ve face a strange realization and an unlikely irony. Why do I miss my child while I’m away, but crave time alone when I’m spending a long day at home? Am I incapable of succeeding at this motherhood job because I crave more mental stimulation and adult conversation? Why do I feel sad as I wonder whether my daughter is napping or playing each afternoon, counting down the minutes until I see her? Am I delegating away my role as a mother or living out my dream as a woman who supposedly is doing it all? My emotions seem to range from one extreme to the other, all in a day’s (or hour’s) time.

Somehow, I don’t think I’m getting at the real problem. This is where most of the motherhood versus “work” conversation ends. People ask if I’m happy in my situation. I struggle to verbalize my emotions, but oftentimes mention that there’s an ongoing tension that seems hard to resolve. I usually suggest I’m confused, torn, and dissatisfied. At the end of the answer, I find myself asking, what’s the real problem here?

I dig deeper. Why the range of emotions? Why the discontent? Is this just the state of being human — wandering from one hope to the other in search of lost joy?

Admittedly, I will never solve the tension that exists for women as to what they pursue in the early years of motherhood. Yet, I must address the darkness within me. My lack of joy is not due to my current situation — it lies in the unrest of my heart.

I crave whatever my life does not contain at the current moment, looking to places other than Christ for fulfillment and peace. When I experience them, I leave feeling empty. I seek other mothers’ advice, hoping they’ll point me to a clear answer. Yet, I find similar challenges in their lives. I try to focus only on the practical things, tweaking my schedule, maximizing my work productivity or taking a day off. The lift I feel is short-lived. I attempt to parent “better” and find myself striving without purpose and believing my role as a mother will end in some sort of performance review. I daydream about a different or better life and sink lower when I face the reality of my own. I become ungrateful and self-focused.

I seem unable to address the real issue here: my heart. C.S. Lewis notes that, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ.” I confess I’ve tried every means for self-resolve without turning whole-heartedly to Him. I’ve been tossed back and forth by the waves without looking up. I’ve attempted to control the situation by treating it myself or masking my own discomfort.

I’m writing this down as a form of confession and repentance, but also because I want other women to ask deeper questions than whether they should get a new nanny or take a long vacation with their kids or find a job with better benefits. If it were that simple, a lot more people would have figured out the key to contentment. Addressing the problem of the heart is more challenging and yet, more fruitful.

I often picture God waiting for me as I come home from work, rushing around in all my self-absorbed busyness, thinking about my next task at work and my child’s hunger cries all at once. Meanwhile, I’ve somehow missed Him sitting on a barstool in the middle of my kitchen with a cold drink in hand, waiting for me to tell him the details of my heart and ask for new joy and purpose.

What I’m here to confess and ask is simple and honest. I’m confused and seeking, humbled and encouraged, broken and redeemed. I’m ready to sit down on that second barstool and allow Him into this tension. My prayer today is that I will pause more often, ask the hard questions of the heart, and believe that a little bit of heaven will enter into the messy (and even contradictory) emotions of motherhood.

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